Hannah Moss, our library intern for June 2016, talks about her experience here:
“Chawton House Library is a place that I had only heard good things about from previous research fellows, so when I saw the summer internship advertised, I had to apply. I’m pleased to say that my month here has more than lived up to my expectations – the only problem is that it has gone by far too quickly!
“The building itself is fascinating and only now, after a month, do I actually feel like I know my way around all of its staircases, corridors and shortcuts. I certainly know how Fanny Knight felt when she wrote: ‘often when I think myself miles away from one part of the house I find a passage or entrance close to it, I don’t know when I shall be quite mistress of all the intricate, & different ways.’ My morning round of all the rooms to monitor the temperature and humidity levels definitely helped me to learn the layout. It has been a busy month with a wedding, a book launch, regency dancing, and a fashion talk. Needless to say, every day has been different, enabling me to get a clear sense of how Chawton House Library functions as a working library, a tourist attraction and an events venue.
“My role has mostly involved assisting with the library side of things, such as cataloguing and shelving new acquisitions. Deirdre Le Faye has donated a large number of modern reference works from her personal collection, which now form a valuable resource for visiting researchers, and it has been interesting to spot titles I own myself, as well as others I need to add to my reading list, whilst cataloguing these books. Being based in the study room on the main visitor route meant that I could talk to members of the public about my work. This not only gave me the opportunity to engage in some interesting conversations about Jane Austen, but also provided a chance for me to recommend other female authors. Chawton House Library’s Novels Online project is a great way of promoting lesser known works to the wider reading public, and it was my job to proofread the transcript of the latest novel before it becomes available to read online. Look out for The Solemn Injunction by Agnes Musgrave, coming soon!
“I have especially enjoyed showing visitors into the lower reading room and hearing the positive reaction to the smell of old books as I opened the door, invariably followed by various exclamations of excitement upon learning that we have a letter written by Charlotte Brontë on display in this room. On loan from the Huntington Library, California, the letter written to her publisher W.S. Williams on 12th April 1850 contains Brontë’s thoughts on Austen’s work after reading Emma (1816) and is one of the highlights of the ‘Emma At 200’ exhibition which runs through until September.
“It has been particularly interesting to learn about how the collection at Chawton House Library is conserved. A team of volunteers have received specialist training in how to repair minor tears, holes and creases, and it was a real privilege to spend an afternoon assisting with this valuable work, stabilising the condition of the books so that they can continue to be read. What I love about Chawton House Library is that it is a working library. The rare books are cared for, but can still be consulted by anyone who makes an appointment. One day a group of A-Level students came to see the first edition of Persuasion (1818), and I hope they found it inspiring as I first realised I wanted to make a career of studying early women’s writing when I was taken to see the first editions of Austen in my University library.
“I am due to commence my PhD at the University of Sheffield in September, and I’ve been lucky enough to have some time to pursue my own research interest in the Gothic novel whilst I’ve been here. Having had a month to familiarise myself with the collection at Chawton House Library, I’m sure I’ll be back in the very near future!
“Thank you to everyone at Chawton House Library for being so welcoming and making my internship both productive and enjoyable.”